Surface Laptop Studio 2 review: The ultimate all-rounder

Even among 2-in-1 PCs, Microsoft offers a unique blend of performance and customizability. But now on the second model, thanks to refreshed specifications as well as the inclusion of a USB-A port and a microSD card reader, it looks like Microsoft has given its mobile workstation the finishing touches it always needed. The final result could be an all-rounder. Unfortunately with the high starting price and expensive upgrades for more RAM and a different GPU Hard to recommend to everyone.

Design: Funky but functional

Francis Bacon once said, “There is no sublime beauty which has not some strangeness in proportion to it,” which is a sentiment that applies to the Surface Laptop Studio 2. It has a minimalist aluminum chassis (instead of the magnesium frame on previous models) but in a somewhat unconventional configuration. The lid of the laptop is split into two halves, which allows the screen to rotate 180 degrees or fold down into an easel. Meanwhile, its base features a two-tier design that allows the laptop to keep its vents away from the sides of the system, while also providing a hidden magnetic charging spot for the Surface Slim Pen 2 (which sadly thing, not included).

The two biggest changes to the Studio 2’s design are the addition of a USB-A port and a microSD card slot. When combined with the existing dual USB-C jacks, you get a solid range of connectivity options. This means you can transfer files directly from the camera to the laptop and you’ll rarely (if ever) have to worry about carrying around extra dongles for peripherals. That said, the Surface Laptop Studio 2’s chassis is a bit thicker (but only by a millimeter or two) and the change to aluminum means an extra third of a pound in weight (4.18 pounds with integrated graphics or 4.37 with a discrete GPU. pound).

Display: Vivid from any angle

The Surface Laptop Studio 2’s screen hasn’t changed much from the previous model, but that’s no bad thing. Its 14.4-inch panel has the same 2,400 x 1,600 resolution, as well as a dynamic refresh rate that can switch between 60Hz and 120Hz depending on what you’re watching. However, the brightness is slightly better, at around 500 nits or 650 nits with HDR on. And you still get full Windows inking support with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity.

Performance: More than enough power, but it’ll cost you

The break in the middle of the Surface Laptop Studio 2's lid allows its screen to be bent into multiple positions.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

For the new model, Microsoft streamlined the Surface Laptop Studio 2’s specifications by offering a single processor in each configuration: an Intel Core i7-13700H. From there you can choose a base model with integrated graphics or upgrade to a model with an RTX 4050 or RTX 4060 GPU. The annoying thing is that, to get that 4060, you also have to get 64GB of RAM, which is too much for most people. That’s unfortunate because that configuration costs $3,300. An option with only 32GB RAM and a lower price would be appreciated.

That said, it’s hard to complain about its actual performance. The Surface Laptop Studio 2 kept pace with similarly specified gaming laptops, including benchmarks and real-world tests. Although it’s not meant to be a dedicated gaming rig, it also includes 62 fps cyberpunk 2077 High graphics at 1920 x 1200 and set to Ultra with ray tracing (although this is with NVIDIA’s DLSS turned on).

Battery life: surprisingly decent

The two big changes to the Surface Laptop Studio 2's design are the addition of a USB-A port on the left side and a microSD card reader on the right side.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Even with a different GPU, the Surface Laptop Studio 2’s longevity is closer to a standard ultraportable than a more short-lived gaming notebook. On PCMark 10’s OpenOffice Battery Rundown test, it lasted eight hours and 40 minutes. That’s three hours more than both the MSI Stealth 14 Studio and the Razer Blade 16, which lasted 5:19 and 5:10, respectively. However, more specialized ultraportables like ASUS’s ZenBook S 13 performed even better, with a time of 10:39.

wrap up

The two major drawbacks compared to the Surface Laptop Studio 2 are its price and limited configuration topped out with NVIDIA RTX 4060 graphics, which makes it feel more like a great all-rounder than an all-out mobile powerhouse. While there’s no defending its cost, I’m not as bothered by the latter, as there’s a lot of value in a system that offers unmatched customizability.

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 touchpad comes from Sensel and is the best mousing option on any Windows laptop on sale today.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

With its innovative design, stunning display, above-average battery life, and superior connectivity, the Surface Laptop Studio 2 can handle many different tasks with ease. It’s a great system for editing photos and videos, and the stylus support makes drawing or taking notes a joy. When you take into account the excellent keyboard, Windows Hello IR cameras, and one of the best touchpads on a Windows laptop today (courtesy of Sensel), you get an incredibly versatile mobile workstation. And if we look at it again “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but sometimes it’s better to be a master of none,” which is exactly what we have here with the Surface Laptop Studio 2. I just wish it were a little cheaper.

This article was originally published on Engadget

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